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Richard Lester was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1928. He came to Vancouver in 1947, eventually attending law school at the University of British Columbia. After being called to the British Columbia Bar in 1953 he practiced in Maple Ridge (then Haney). He served on the schoool board and was president of the BC School Trustees Association from 1961 to 1963.
In 1963 he was appointed to the first Board of Governors for the newly formed Simon Fraser University, a position he held until he became Chairman of the Board in the fall of 1968. He resigned this position in 1971, returning to his law practice.
Lester lived in Maple Ridge and then West Vancouver. He married Lois Audrey Jensen in 1952 and has 4 children.